Bernie Cylich’s remarks to the 2016 Better World Awards
People’s World is the voice of the Communist Party of the United States.
Founded in 1919 under the banner, “Fight for the attainment of the immediate interests of the working class,” the Communist Party looked, at the same time, to a future in which we would enjoy the benefits of socialism.
The party recognized the centrality of the struggle against racism first raised by Dr. W. B. Dubois, who wrote, “The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color-line.” Parenthetically, it continues to be the problem of the 21st Century.
We meet today under clouds, with an unpredictable, racist demagogue about to become President of the United States, while the ultra-right continues to control the Senate, the House, thirty three state houses, and numerous municipalities, and my soon control the Supreme Court, too.
The Republican agenda is unambiguous: overturn hard-won gains in labor and civil rights, environmental and financial regulations, and safe and affordable reproductive health care; destroy Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, Obamacare; eliminate even minimum wage laws. The GOP plans to unleash attacks on undocumented, and even documented, immigrants, and threaten to deport millions. The Republicans will try to privatize as many government functions as they can, including the Veterans Administration. As they have done whenever they have a chance, they will lower taxes, of course, on corporations and wealthy families, and they will jack up military – already bloated- funding
The most vulnerable, as always, will be working families, people of color, of immigrants, women, the LGBT community, young people, the elderly, and disabled.
The extreme right and corporate interests may be celebrating, but their victory may prove Pyrrhic. Note the spontaneous rage and indignation across the nation, with high school and college students, workers, multi-racial, multi-ethnic folks marching declaring “Trump Is Not My President.” Rather than being paralyzed by the fear of Trump, many of his opponents are organizing and demonstrating throughout our nation as we meet this afternoon.
Many of the rights and benefits we enjoy today were won on the picket lines, by marches, rallies, sit-ins, petitions, and other forms of struggle. Americans are not about to surrender. In particular, we will protect the future of our planet.
And, we take heart as we witness mayors and city councils, even local police chiefs and a number of governors, declaring their cities and states will be sanctuaries for undocumented immigrants. When was the last time we have seen such open challenges to anticipated presidential actions?
So let me share with you how folks are responding to the Trump election in Co-op City – the largest working-class, integrated cooperative housing in the nation. A week after the elections, a dozen representatives from community and faith-based organizations met to send a delegation to Washington, to join the Women’s March on January 21, 2017. We are organizing to fill five buses to Washington, to bring a message to President Donald Trump that, like the hundreds of thousands of other demonstrators from across the United States, Co-op City opposes any retreat on social and economic gains we have made since the ‘30s. We have adopted Patricia Lumumba’s “Forward Forever, Backwards Never” as our slogan.
Despite his bluster, Trump is evidently afraid of masses of people descending on Washington and insisting that our demands be met. In fact, the transition team has ordered, even before the inauguration, the mall and the surrounding streets and open spaces be off limits to demonstrators.
Meanwhile, some European voters – notably in Austria – Hitler’s birthplace, Greece, and Portugal, have rejected neoliberal economic policies. Other voters, however, in their anger and misled by demagogues (like Trump), have elected revanchist candidates.
We cannot ignore Hillary Clinton’s Achilles heel, her too close attachment to neoliberalism, which might explain why many union members, registered Democrats, and former voters for Obama stayed home on Election Day or voted for Trump.
At the same time, the current leadership struggle in the Democratic Party is over whether the party will continue to promote the regressive, neoliberal economic policies.
Attempts are being made by neoliberalism, led by Daily News in particular, to draft a Mayoral candidate to challenge Bill de Blasio next year.
This afternoon we are honoring Jarvis Tyner, Communist Party leader, with a Lifetime Achievement Award. We are honoring Rachel LaForest, of the Retail Action Project, and George Albro, of Brooklyn Progressive Action, [and Nelini Stamp of the Working Families Party] with the 2016 Better World Award. They have been on the frontlines for justice, human rights, and labor rights, and organizing for change and for leadership in the fight-back.
To quote the great Swedish immigrant labor leader, organizer, and troubadour Joe Hill, who, as he stood before the copper bosses’ firing squad, called on to his supporters: “Don’t Mourn, Organize.”